Thursday, October 18, 2007

Daily Report

· The Associated Press reports that at least 2 people died and 16 were injured on Highway 14 near Los Angeles, California as a result of a pileup caused by a sandstorm. This incident took place near the site of the fiery truck pileup Friday night. (See item 16)

· The Associated Press reports that the drought, which affected most of the West and Southeast, has spread to the Mid-Atlantic area. According to the National Climate Data Center, 43 percent of the contiguous United States was in moderate to extreme drought at the end of September. (See item 20)

Information Technology

28. October 17, IDG News Service—(New York; National) Facebook to beef up safety. Facebook will step up the policing of pornography, harassment, and inappropriate behavior on its social networking site, settling a consumer fraud investigation by the attorney general (AG) of New York State. Facebook users can now report complaints about pornography, harassment, or inappropriate contact either by clicking on links on the Web site or by sending e-mail to the address. The company will respond to these complaints within 24 hours, and it will allow an independent examiner appointed with the approval of the New York AG, to monitor the company’s compliance for the next two years. The social networking site has been in hot water with attorney generals throughout the U.S. over perceptions that it is a haven for pornography and sexual predators. Late last month, the New York AG's office subpoenaed Facebook documents and sent its CEO a letter detailing preliminary findings of an investigation into Facebook’s safety measures. Investigators posing as minors on Facebook were repeatedly solicited by adult predators, and the site did a poor job of responding to complaints from investigators posing as minors or their parents, the AG’s office said.

29. October 17, IDG News Service – (National) Feds question intelligence of crybaby typosquatting convict. A so-called typosquatter, who served pornographic advertisements on domains such as and, has been fined again by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). John Zuccarini has agreed to give up $164,000 in typosquatting revenue he is alleged to have raked in, the FTC said Tuesday in a statement. Five years ago, a federal court had barred Zuccarini from registering domains that are misspellings of legitimate brands, a practice called typosquatting, but he ignored the order, according to a staff attorney with the FTC. “He was engaging in practices that violated certain provisions of the order,” she said. “He had certain domain names that were transpositions or misspellings of popular domain names.” After his 2002 settlement, Zuccarini tearfully pled guilty in 2003 to typosquatting and child pornography charges brought by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. However, he resumed the domain name registration scam after being released from prison in late 2005. This time around, however, his hundreds of Web sites were used to advertise legitimate products rather than pornography. “I seemed like he was linking his domain names to affiliate marketing programs where they had all sorts of ads,” she said. Though typosquatting has been illegal in the U.S. for about 10 years, the government has been largely unable to crack down on the practice because typosquatters often operate outside of federal jurisdiction.

30. October 16, Computerworld – (National) Storm botnet divides, preps for sale to spammers. The hackers behind the pernicious, persistent Storm Trojan are getting ready to slice off pieces of the botnet created by their malware so that they can “sell” the compromised computers to spammers and denial-of-service attackers, a researcher said today. That is the most likely explanation for the encryption added to secure the command-and-control traffic between the bot herder and some bots, said a senior security researcher at SecureWorks Inc. According to this specialist, who has closely tracked Storm since its debut in January, the newest variants include a 40-byte key that encrypts the command traffic. Unlike other bot-building Trojans, Storm uses peer-to-peer (P2P) rather than IRC (Internet Relay Chat) to receive commands, a tactic that has made its bots harder to take down. “One possibility is that they're splitting [the botnet] and selling off individual botnets to spammers,” he said. “If they’re going to sell, they need to have it so each botnet is on a separate network. The easiest way to do that is to scramble the peer-to-peer Overnet traffic.”

Communications Sector

31. October 16, The Associated Press – (International) Cisco cooperating with Brazil tax evasion investigation. Cisco Systems Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of computer network equipment, said it is cooperating with Brazilian authorities who raided offices across the country to break up an alleged tax evasion scheme. Police refused to name which company may have benefited from the plot, but a police statement described the firm as an “American multinational, leader in the sector of high-technology services and equipment for corporate networks, Internet and telecommunications.” A Cisco spokesman said the company is “cooperating fully with the investigation” but declined to say whether Cisco’s Brazilian facilities had been raided Tuesday, or if any Cisco executives were among those arrested by police. “We are currently in the process of establishing what exactly has happened and cannot comment further until we have more information,” he said in an e-mail. About 650 police and tax agents executed 93 search warrants Tuesday, arresting 40 people involved in an alleged ring to help the unnamed U.S. company avoid import, sales and corporate taxes, the federal police statement said. Tax agents also seized $10 million in merchandise, a commercial jet and 18 vehicles in the raids, tax officials said in a separate statement. The scheme, allegedly set up by Brazilian businessmen to benefit the U.S. firm, prompted a two-year police investigation that focused on at least $500 million in products shipped to Brazilian clients from tax havens like Panama, the Bahamas and the British Virgin islands, in order to avoid local taxes, the police statement said. Those goods could have generated $833 million in tax revenue for the Brazilian government, police said.

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